H5G9 Virus In ‘Sweet Tooth,’ Explained: How Is Gus Connected With The Sick?

More often than not, post-apocalyptic fiction tends to hold human egocentrism accountable for the abysmal conditions that create such situations (and rightly so), and Netflix’s adaptation of the DC/Vertigo series “Sweet Tooth,” created by Jeff Lemire, is no exception in that regard. Compared to the recently released HBO’s “The Last of Us,” which touches on the aspect of nature striking back at humankind’s arrogant aggression, “Sweet Tooth” doubles down on showing the horrors of humanity and nature’s solution for perfect harmony in a contrasting way. We are introduced to a world that has been ravaged by a pandemic, which coincides with the birth of naturally born animal-human hybrids. While the first season of the series tiptoed around the assumption that the origins of both the virus and the hybrids are interrelated, the second season established that fact by showcasing events of the past, which also revealed how Gus, our favorite deer-human hybrid kid protagonist, will play the role of the central figure for the future of both species. We will discuss the events as they happened chronologically, which will help viewers ascertain Gus’ role in all this.


Spoilers Ahead

The Origin

Humanity’s desire to play God has been the reason for its undoing in so many instances, and the reason the viral outbreak happened in the world of “Sweet Tooth” is a reminder of that. In 1911, a British scientist, Dr. James Thacker, led an expedition to arctic Alaska in search of a mysterious village of natives who, according to rumors, lived up to a century and were free of any sort of disease; in search of the so-called ‘fountain of youth.’ The scientist himself was afflicted by a hereditary muscular degenerative disorder, and in search of a cure, he decided to take a chance by undertaking the expedition. However, the result of the expedition was never known, as none of the members ever returned. Long after the outbreak, Birdie goes to the place to look for clues and finds the ship, inside of which she sees the remains of some of the members, purple flowers that accompany the disease, and Thacker’s journal.


A century after Thacker’s journey, his great-granddaughter Gillian Washington, who is also suffering from the disorder, decides to carry on the unfinished research as she becomes the director of the Fort Smith labs. She sends a research party to the Arctic, where they manage to excavate a unique microorganism from thick layers of permafrost that can supercharge the human immune system altogether and thereby contribute to revolutionizing medical science. Gillian entrusts her team of scientists, led by Gertrude Miller, aka Birdie, to create a viable culture for human trials in Operation Midnight Sun.

How Are Gus And The H5G9 Virus Connected With Each Other?

Before proceeding to human trials, the microbes are tested on chickens and yield positive results. This encourages Birdie to make an effort to produce viable cultures using chicken eggs. Naturally, with a one-in-a-million chance of success, the procedure takes time, which almost results in funding cancellation. However, a miracle happens when one of the fertilized eggs shows signs of life, and later another one grows to become viable for culture. The one with the sign of life becomes the first animal-human hybrid and gets named Genetic Unit Series 1, acronymized as GUS. Birdie took a liking to Gus and treated him as her own child.


The other egg produced viable cultures, which Gillian used on herself in haste, given the fact that human trials were still far off, and she was growing impatient by the day. However, while Gus turned out to be humanity’s possible savior and future, as he had the potential to be a so-called decay- or disease-less human being imbued with longevity, the culture from the other egg turned out to be the horrendous H5G9 virus that brought catastrophic results with it. The probability of the microorganism becoming a blessing, or a death knell was always there, and it ended up becoming both. The H5G9 virus wiped out 98% of the world’s population in a mere nine years and destroyed human civilization completely. It is almost as if nature provided a deterrent to humanity as a punishment for its transgressions and provided a better form of life as well. After the outbreak, animal-human hybrids started being born, causing mass confusion in the process.

Can Gus Be The Key To Saving Humanity?

After the initial terror of the viral outbreak passes, humankind becomes confused and, in dire situations, shows its most horrible, grotesque side. The details of the Fort Smith viral breakout were hidden from the public, and as both the outbreak and the first appearance of hybrid kids coincided, the majority thought them to be the reason for the outbreak and started hunting and butchering them mercilessly. The misery of the hybrids increased when the brain stem cells of the hybrids began to be used as a temporary cure for the H5G9 viral afflictions in some derogatory, experimental works that were propagated by the likes of Dr. Bell, and pathetic dictators like General Abbot took full advantage of this to use the “saving humanity’ excuse in the guise of slaughtering hybrids. Dr. Aditya Singh became a victim of this horrible mess, too, when, in order to save his afflicted wife, Rani’s, life, he started using the hybrids. Later, Abbot abducts the Singh couple and forces Aditya to synthesize a cure in the recently seized ‘Preserve.’


In the ‘Preserve,’ Dr. Singh meets a captured Gus, and by interrogating him using purple flowers, which unlocked Gus’ past memories and visions, he becomes aware of the involvement of Fort Smith Labs in the entire fiasco. By recovering the data left by Birdie, Aditya manages to successfully synthesize an antigen that completely eliminates the virus from blood strain, albeit once again using hybrid brain stem cells. But almost as if divine justice has its way in the end, the cure, stained by the blood of innocents, turns out to be ineffectual after a while. A near-frantic, depressed Dr.Singh continues to become absorbed in his research, so much so that he loses his purpose as Rani leaves him.

Getting his hands on Gus’ severed antler, which the pathetic General Abbot took as a prized possession, Dr. Singh wonders whether the first animal-human hybrid, Gus, could be the key to unlocking the one aspect missing from his desperate attempts to synthesize a permanent cure. Aditya decides to follow (unbeknownst to Gus) Gus and his family to Alaska and search for the clues and answers only Birdie, who is stationed there, can provide. Indeed, Gus is the key, but not the way Aditya thinks. Gus and his fellow hybrids are nature’s way of creating better beings, more attuned to the natural harmony than the plunderers masquerading as ‘crown jewels of creation.’ They are the next step of evolution that neither Abbot’s atrocious attempts nor Aditya’s misguided, morally bankrupt attempt to save humanity can slow down.


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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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